In 2011, Anders Brevik set off a bomb outside a government building in Norway and then slaughtered dozens of unarmed people on a retreat, methodically picking them off as they tried to escape from an island. Seventy-seven people died in Brevik’s murder spree, and the unrepentant killer gave an unemotional description of his actions in court. The court in Norway reacted by handing down a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison — just under 100 days per murder victim:
A Norwegian court ruled Friday that confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik was sane, deciding he was criminally responsible for the massacre of 77 people last summer.
Reading the ruling, Judge Wenche Elisabeth Arntzen said that “in a unanimous decision … the court sentences the defendant to 21 years of preventive detention.”
In case you’ve forgotten the circumstances of the case, NBC reminds us in this earlier preview of the decision:
Actually, the sentence is for a 21-year maximum. The minimum is 10 years, or 47.4 days per victim. In Norway, courts can keep prisoners past their maximum release date if a judge finds that they remain a danger to the community. The prosecutors, who wanted Brevik committed for life as insane, loaded up the court record with tales of Brevik’s horrors, apparently anticipating that they would need the testimony later to keep Brevik behind bars.
And how sad is that?
I’d bet that in 21 years, Brevik will be found safe enough to release, if not earlier. If the court wanted to keep him behind bars for life, they surely could have done so today. A sizable contingent will argue that keeping Brevik any longer would be cruel and wasteful … and that’s not just a European impulse, either.